Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Stars Battle to the End but Steeldogs Too Strong

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Stars Battle to the End but Steeldogs Too Strong

Article excerpt

Byline: CAROL WHITE

BILLINGHAM Stars put up a valiant fight over their two-legged National Ice Hockey League (N) Playoff series against League champions Sheffield Steeldogs, but a 13-6 aggregate defeat sees their season over as they exit the competition at the quarterfinal stage.

At the Forum on Saturday the visitors opened the scoring just before the nine-minute mark, Cameron Brownley bundling in a rebound on the near post.

Late penalties called against Jack Davies and Deniss Bakatovs put the home side on the defensive but they weathered the storm to go in just a goal down at the break.

Ultimate Windows-sponsored Billingham had just survived a clipping call against Matthew Campbell when the visitors moved further ahead in the 30th minute, no defencemen on hand to clear up Adrian Palak's rebound and Brownley free to pot home his second. The Steeldogs picked up their first penalty of the evening not long after but the closest the hosts got was a Michael Elder effort that came off netminder Dmitri Zimozdra's mask in the 33rd minute.

A tripping penalty against Liam Charnock just before the 42-minute mark should have been Billingham's green light but they got caught pushing forward and allowed Milan Kolena to break and pull his pass across for Lloyd Gibson to tap home.

At 0-3 it should have been game over but the Stars came roaring back, Bakatovs finding the roof of the net in fine style just 30 seconds later.

Eventually they got it back to a one-goal game when a great pass from James Moss found Bakatovs for the one-timer in the 54th minute. Half a minute later and Bakatovs returned the favour, his hard work setting up Moss for the equaliser to send the Forum faithful wild.

Sheffield had the final say however, a defensive clearance ending up on Adrian Palak's stick for the Slovakian to give the visitors a slender lead going into the deciding leg the following evening.

Man-of-the-Match for Billingham was Deniss Bakatovs.

Stars Stats: Deniss Bakatovs 2+1; James Moss 1+2; Jack Davies 0+2; Ben Davison 0+1 SOG: James Flavell 45 (16 / 12 / 17) Steeldogs Stats: Cameron Brownley 2+1; Adrian Palak 1+2; Lloyd Gibson 1+0; Liam Charnock 0+2; Milan Kolena 0+1 SOG: Dmitri Zimozdra 18 (5 / 6 / 7) At IceSheffield on Sunday evening Sheffield broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, Gibson getting the final touch on a Ben Morgan shot. Two minutes later and the gap widened a little more, the defence standing a little too far off Lewis Bell to allow him to find his range.

The game's defining moment came with just 23 seconds left before the buzzer, referee Andrew Miller awarding Brownley a controversial goal.

The Stars protestations earned captain Elder and assistant captain Chris Sykes ten-minute misconduct penalties, thus robbing Billingham of their top line going into the second period. …

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